Despite a tight security blanket thrown over Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar, which has 12 of the 20 seats where polling is being held today, the region’s Sukma district has seen two encounters and an explosion that have left several security personnel injured.
The incidents highlight the challenges of ensuring security in the region, where at least 60,000 personnel have been deployed for the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections, and bring back unpleasant memories of the 2013 attack on a convoy of Congress leaders and workers in Sukma district, which is one of the deadliest Maoist strikes in Indian history.
On May 25, 2013, ahead of Assembly elections in the state, Maoists wiped out the top leadership of the Chhattisgarh Congress during the party’s ‘Parivartan Rally’. Then state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, former leader of opposition Mahendra Karma and former Union minister Vidyacharan Shukla were among 30 Congress leaders and security personnel who were killed in a blast triggered by the Maoists.
NDTV visited the area and, in the jungle, about 100 metres from the road where the explosion took place, saw a large metal piece from a red Bolero which had been blown up in 2013. A memorial built in Jhiram Ghati, which has photos of leaders and security personnel who were killed – some named and some unnamed – also serves as a grim reminder of the tragedy.
It’s been 10 years, but the Congress still maintains that the killings were the result of a political conspiracy and some people had connived with the Maoists, who had carried out the attack. The BJP was in power in the state when the attack took place.
Congress leader Malkeet Gaidu, who survived the attack, said, “There was no proper probe by the National Investigation Agency. Bhupesh Baghel’s government had formed a committee, but the NIA challenged it in court. It’s clear the BJP does not clarity to emerge on the conspiracy.”
BJP Spokesperson Sanjay Pandey, however, said that the Congress always brings up the Jhiram tragedy during elections but it is not serious about getting to the bottom of the case.